Hawley, Danforth work to quell GOP doubts about campaign
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A big-name backer of Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley is raising concerns that the attorney general isn’t doing enough to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, pushing Hawley’s campaign and supporters to do damage control.
Kit Bond, who was among four former Republican senators who last year urged Hawley to run, told USA Today this week that Hawley’s backers wish he would “get to work doing fundraising and getting out and campaigning actively.”
Bond’s comments came after Hawley’s campaign reported raising significantly less money than McCaskill in recent months: about $960,000 to her $2.9 million. Hawley also hasn’t yet hit the campaign trail hard.
That has in part fueled rumors that Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner could enter the race, though her House re-election campaign strongly disputes that will happen. Republican consultant John Hancock — a longtime friend — said Wagner won’t enter the race and create a primary, which he said could leave the Republican nominee damaged before facing McCaskill.
Hawley’s campaign is trying to quiet doubts, and longtime supporter U.S. Sen. John Danforth is also working to put out fires. Danforth said there’s “nothing to worry about” in terms of Hawley’s fundraising, and he dismissed concerns about delayed campaigning, saying there’s still plenty of time before November’s election.
“He’s going to wage a good campaign,” Danforth said.
On Thursday, Hawley’s campaign manager, Kyle Plotkin, said voters don’t want a lengthy campaign and that Hawley is currently focused on his duties as attorney general. He argued that Hawley’s fundraising is has been better than some Senate contenders in other states and he touted Hawley’s 2016 landslide victory for his current seat, during which he won the most votes of any candidate on the ballot.
“The guy knows how to campaign,” Plotkin said, adding that President Donald Trump has also pledged to campaign for him.
Hancock said the anxiety about Hawley is not unusual.
“This little dust up is fairly typical of campaigns in their early stages,” Hancock said. “If Josh puts together an effective and aggressive campaign, he’s going to win. And I think that’s what everybody’s hoping for.”